Only 3 countries have landed spacecraft on the moon so far: the United States, Russia and China. But … only the United States has had anyone put their feet on the moon. The first man to do so was Neil Armstrong.
On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 used its 7.5 million pounds of thrust to propel the 3 stage 363-foot rocket ship into space. Three days later, its 3 astronauts were orbiting the moon. The next infamous day, June 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin climbed into the Eagle lunar module, which would take them to the moon’s surface; Michael Collins stayed behind to manage the Columbia command module.
The moon’s Sea of Tranquility was the Eagle’s destination, but it was littered with hazardous boulders. To add to the gut-wrenching suspense, the computer suddenly began sounding alarms and when the Eagle finally landed safely, there was only 30 seconds of fuel left.
“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” (Commander Neil Armstrong)
Several hours later, with more than a half a billion people watching the event on television, Neil Armstrong climbed down the Eagle’s ladder and said what many of us can recite by heart now:
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” (Commander Neil Armstrong)
Aldrin joined Armstrong next, describing the moon’s surface as “magnificent desolation”. They hung out on the moon for a few hours, collecting samples and taking photographs, then climbed up the ladder and navigated the Eagle back to the mother ship, Columbia. Behind they left an American flag, a memento honoring the tragically fire-balled Apollo I crew, and a plaque which read:
“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
If you haven’t seen the 2019 docu-drama film Apollo 11, now is the time to check it out, or to watch it again:
Others have left their mark on the moon, flags and all; however, according to the 1966 Outer Space Treaty established by the United Nations, space has its limits:
- The exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind
- Outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all states
- Outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means
- States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner
- The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes
- Astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind
- States shall be responsible for national space activities, whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities
- States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects
- States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies
With the International Space Station now an enduring figure in space and commercial space travel about to become a reality, it is obvious that the 55 year old UN convention is ripe for change.
Did you know that the International Space Station circles the earth every 90 minutes in low-orbit?
One man has been selling lots on the moon and other celestial bodies, as he believes the UN treaty declares that no nation can assert sovereignty in space, but there is a loophole: it fails to state that individuals are prohibited from doing so.
No private citizen has landed on the moon yet, but that’s about to change. Well, not quite. Being strapped into a rocket ship and orbiting the Earth is the more likely first adventure.
The family piles into their vehicle as they begin their vacation.
They strap in, ready for the 220 mile trip.
Secured in a commercial vessel, donning intra-vehicular activity space suits, they are thrust back against their seats as the capsule rockets into the air. Within minutes, they experience 2½ Gs, feeling more than double their own weight pressing upon them.
And, after just 8½ minutes, they enter space and are weightless.
It takes a few more hours for the capsule to rendez-vous with the private space station -- an orbiting habitat they've rented for their holiday in space.
So which space travel company might take your “vacay” reservation?
Inspiration4, in partnership with SpaceX (an Elon Musk company), will launch 4 civilians into space this year. They will use the same Dragon vehicle that was docked at the International Space Station by real astronauts in late 2020. The rocket ship will launch from the landmark Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the Apollo and Space Shuttle missions were also launched.
Two of the 4 seats have been made available to the public and were announced at the 2021 Super Bowl; those 2 lucky passengers are now confirmed.
The Dragon aircraft can actually carry 3 more passengers to and from the Earth’s orbit and beyond. It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth, and is the first private spacecraft to take humans to the space station.
These folks are building the first private space station where tourists can potentially live in space for several days in the future. Celebrity Frenchman Philippe Starck has been commissioned to design the interior.
“My hotels (in the future, aka space stations) aren’t based on any particular cultural, fashion, or architectural aesthetic. I create mental spaces, emotional surprises, and enigmas. A successful hotel (or space station) today is a contrast between the purely emotional and purely functional." (Philippe Starck)
Axiom plans to launch its first private crew-only mission to the International Space Station in 2021. Four passengers will make the journey in early 2022 and stay at the International Space station for 10 days.
Launched in 1998, Space Adventures is one of the older space tourism companies. It has already sent private citizens to the International Space Station using a Russian Soyuz rocket. The Company is planning to use a SpaceX Falcon rocket to launch civilians into space from Florida for a 5-day low-Earth orbit (no docking with the International Space Station). The target date is late 2021 to early 2022.
Blue Origin is another space tourism company led by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. In February 2021, Bezos announced that he was stepping down as CEO of Amazon to spend more time on other projects. One of them is Blue Origin. Jeff recently announced that he is heading to space with his brother Mark on July 20th, the same day Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969.
Blue Origin will be offering low-earth orbit flights from its Van Horn, Texas launch site. The New Shepard rocket system will take up to 6 civilians to the fringe of space for 11 minutes.
Passengers will arrive two days before the flight to undergo training. While in space, passengers will be subject to the zero-G weightless experience, while taking in the impressive views of Earth from at least 62 miles above sea level, an imaginary earth-space boundary established in the 1900’s by Hungarian physicist Theodore von Kármán. Passengers will re-enter the Earth in a parachute-equipped landing capsule.
We’ve talked a lot about orbiting the earth, but the moon is still an important target. The last NASA lunar landing took place in 1972. Today, countries are interested in returning to the moon. For instance, the United States wants to send the first female and the first person of color to the moon by 2024. The U.S. government has a competition to choose a new lunar lander as part of its Artemis program, with its first launch scheduled in late 2021 or early 2022.
“During the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. We will collaborate with our commercial and international partners and establish sustainable exploration for the first time. Then, we will use what we learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.” (NASA)
Blue Origin is designing and building the Blue Moon lunar lander, a joint effort with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.
As part of the Virgin brand led by Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic operates from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Like the other space tourism companies, Virgin Galactic is currently in the test flight phase of its SpaceShipTwo rocket ship, with its sights set on onboarding civilians. The first Virgin Galactic space flights will use SpaceShipTwo. This craft holds up to 6 passengers.
Similar to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin New Shephard flights, only several minutes of the trip will be in space. The total flight time from takeoff to landing will be about 2.5 hours. In the future, Virgin Galactic plans to offer visits to the International Space Station.
The Future Is Near
As for going to the moon or near the moon, that’s harder and may be in the hands of the uber rich Japanese billionaire, Yusaku Maezawa (aka YM) who recently introduced his dearMoon project to the world in jeans and bare feet:
It has taken more than half a century, but the world is finally ready to take the next step of opening up space travel to civilians – both civilian crew members and civilian passengers. Buckle up, the experience of a lifetime is at our doorstep, as long as you have a giant wad of cash in your pocket or are great at filling out applications to be the lucky guest of a philanthropist.
Now challenge yourself and your friends to our Wanna Go To The Moon Quiz of the Day, by downloading Quizefy from the app store if you haven’t already done so, then see how much you know and Strut Your Smart. Our Wanna Go To The Moon Quiz is only available today, then it disappears. We’ll be back again every Tuesday with a special blog posted at www.quizefy.com, along with a new trivia quiz on the same topic as the blog. Don’t forget to follow Quizefy in social media, so we can remind you of upcoming blog and quiz content.